Don’t Miss the 3 Different Colors of Beaches on Hawaii’s Big Island

Punalu'u Beach Black Sand Beach 3 different colors of beaches on Hawaiis Big Island

I love the beach. I love the beach. It’s definitely my happy place. How could it not be? I love looking out at the expanse of ocean and feeling monumentally inconsequential, then having the glorious sun on my face and knowing it shines just for me. Soft sand, tropical trees… Ugh I could just lay on a beach forever contemplating life and then forgetting it.

I’ve forgotten life on beaches on 4 continents and 5 islands. I’m not racist, but they’ve all been white.

Then there’s the land of inclusion: you can see 3 different color beaches on Hawaii’s Big Island. Three different colors! How cool is that?

I’d heard of black sand beaches but never seen one, and green sand beaches? Are you serious? Never crossed my mind.

When researching the most unique things we could do during our 4 days on the Big Island (’cause we don’t do other tourists) we read about both green and black sand beaches on the island. Well, that’s part of our itinerary now.

Hawaii’s Green Sand Beach

Hawaii Green Sand Beach 3 different colors of beaches on Hawaii's Big Island

We took a long detour on our drive around the southern coast from Kona to Hilo to make it to the Green Sand Beach. It was around 30 minutes off the main road, plus a 2.5 mile hike to actually get to the stranded miracle cove. We were pretty excited to see something so unusual, but it turns out the hike wasn’t worth it. Not to us, at least.

Thoughts on the Green Sand Beach: 

  • Too hard to get to
  • Disappointed in the color of the green, and that’s it’s not pure
  • An interesting landscape to hike, at least
  • More crowded than expected
  • Glad we tried, since it’s pretty rare

Get directions and read all about our experience making it to the elusive Green Sand Beach here. 

Hawaii’s Black Sand Beach

Sea Turtle on Black Sand Beach 3 Different Color Beaches on Hawaiis Big Island

We’d read that the Black Sand Beach was more accessible, which made it easier to decide to go after our disappointment of visiting the Green Sand Beach.

The Black Sand Beach, Punalu’u Beach, is on the Big Island of Hawai’i between

Thanks to it’s proximity to the active Volcanoes National Park, the black sand at Punalu’u Beach is caused when lava flows into the ocean, cools, and explodes. The “sand” is really tiny bits of basalt lava rock, so it feels a big thicker and grainier than typical sand.

It really was incredible to see! The deep black color is unexpected and stark, and creates a gorgeous contrast to the light blue ocean. Maybe it’s the Modern Minimalist in me, but I definitely preferred the black sand to the muddled, Army green sand!

To make our visit even better, we saw two Green Sea Turtles lounging on the beach! Sea turtles are common on this beach, which means you can kill two birds with one stone: see an incredibly cool beach and one of Hawaii’s most treasured creatures!

Black sand beaches are more common than green sand beaches. There’s even another one in Hawaii- the Naupaka Beach on Maui island. If you happen to be in an area anywhere near a black sand beach I strongly urge you to make the trip- it’ll seriously blow your mind!

Holding Black Sand 3 different colors of beaches on hawaiis big island

Thoughts on the Black Sand Beach

  • Glad it was easy to access
  • Surprised no one else was there
  • Happy we saw Green Sea Turtles
  • The color was really incredible

White Sand Beach

white sand beach 3 different colors of beaches on hawaiis big island

A white sand beach may not sound very exciting, but the fact is that most of Hawaii’s coast is rough lava rock. Contrary to popular belief, the Big Island, at least, doesn’t have much loungeable beach space. This surprised us. I was hoping to spend more time on soft sand in between our adventures, but, alas, between the rocky coast and the heavy rain it just wasn’t meant to be.

We found white sand when kayaking the Kealakekua Bay, but the boat launch isn’t a great area for recreational swimming.

One of the best for the quintessential beach experience would be Makalawena Beach. Just off of Highway 19 in Kailua-Kona, this beach features the lush, soft, white sand that Hawaiian dreams are made of. It’s a remote cove that also has lava rock and 2 lava pools, so there’s some built in adventure time, too!

The 3 Different Color Beaches on Hawaii’s Big Island

I have to say, I love this planet. How amazing is it that these vastly different sand colors can all occur on the same island? I mean, the Big Island is big, but not that big.

My favorite was the Black Sand Beach. I loved the color contrast, seeing sea turtles, and how easy it was to get to.

Being on the white sand beach was nice since we hadn’t found many on the Big Island, but it wasn’t anything too special compared to other beaches.

The Green Sand Beach… Meh. But I’m really glad we went, just because it’s supposed to be pretty rare. I like saying we’ve done unusual things, even if we didn’t necessarily enjoy them.

If you enjoy soaking in the sun and debating the world and your existence in it while laying on soft sand staring into the neverending ocean as much as I do, I’d love to hear if you’re interested in visiting any of these beaches!


Visiting Hawaii? You don't want to miss seeing 3 different color beaches on Hawaii's Big Island!




  • Luna S

    This is such a neat post! I knew there were different colored sands but I didn’t realize there were any beaches that had multiple colors. If I ever visit Hawaii I’ll be sure to check this out.

  • Caitlin Patton

    Green sand?! Oh my goodness, adding to the top of my travel list!

  • Phill Slater

    I wish I was where you are. It’s rained all day here.

  • April C

    It was too bad about the green one but the black beach Impressed me so much, I definitely have it marked for next time I take a trip to Hawaii

  • Lori

    Makes me want to go back to Hawaii to explore them all.

  • Brooke

    I’ve never been to Hawaii so I was excited to read your post and learn more about their beaches! Now I definitely want to visit a black sand beach. It’s so different from the beaches I am used to. And at first when you said there was a green sand beach, I pictured bright green, like grass. Guess it was too good to be true. But that won’t stop me from still wanting to visit Hawaii some day!

  • Cara @ Street Smart Nutrition

    That’s really interesting about the black sand beach – based on your photos and the fact it was less crowded, I think that would be my favorite too!

  • Lina

    I don’t know. The black beach looks very unusual & interesting, but I probably wouldn’t go there to chill:D

  • J

    These are such great recommendations. Hawaii is on my bucket list and these places will definitely be included. Such vivid and beautiful colors that come out in the photos!

  • Leah Weber

    Wow how cool is that! I had no idea you could go to all three of those beaches just in Hawaii! My husband and I are currently looking for a vacation spot this summer, definitely going to check this out!

  • Kyla Matton Osborne | 24 Carrot Diet

    How disappointing that the green sand beach really didn’t look very green! I’ve seen other photos where the colour was more obvious. But even in those, it’s not as pure a green as I would have expected.

  • Rachel

    I was lucky enough to go to Hawaii as a child and it is stunningly beautiful. I loved the white and black sand, but I haven’t seen the green!

  • Leigh Suznovich

    Oh wow, I never even knew about the Green sand beach! Need to see that and the black sand beach for sure since I’ve never seen anything like those.

  • Etelka

    Would love to see them. There are so many beautiful places on Earth, one life-time would not be enough to see them all!

  • tachira wiltshire

    I am so accustomed to just golden coloured sands . I am with you I think the black sand beach was the most impressive it just looks so unusual to me. It must be such a blessing to see all of these rare sights in person .

  • Melissa

    I don’t travel much so I never knew these existed in the same place! How cool is that! This was a great read everything looked beautiful! I need to visit Hawaii now.

  • Julie Plagens

    I feel like I got to visit Hawai tonight while stuck in my house. Love the black sand. Sorry the green sand was meh!

  • Sharon

    What a unique trait on the Big Island. I hadn’t ever heard of this before and now I cant wait for the possibility to visit all three of these area of Hawaii.

  • Nadine Richardson

    I love the beach and this sounds so worth the trip. I have yet to visit Hawaii, I always wanted to go for the food lol. But this is definitely going on my list of sights to visit. Gorgeous pictures too!

  • Sunrita

    I have always wanted to go to Hawai and reading this post makes me even more determined! What a lovely write up!

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